Jhonen Vasquez is a comic book writer, cartoonist, and music video director. He's the creator of Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, its spin-off comics Squee! and I Feel Sick, and Invader Zim.
Aaron Alexovich is a comic artist and character designer. His work includes Avatar: The Last Airbender, Serenity Rose, and Invader Zim
Megan Lawton is a storyboard artist and comic artist. Her work includes The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part and Invader Zim.
Eric Trueheart is a comic and TV writer. His work includes Turbo FAST, Yin Yang Yo!, and Invader Zim.
They all work on the Invader Zim comics from Oni Press.
Tim: For Aaron, Eric and Jhonen...
Jhonen: Why not Megan? What do you have against Megan?
Tim: That's Q two. You all worked on the original series. Megan didn't.
Jhonen: Why would you assume that? Megan might've worked on the original series.
Eric: Yeah, she was like 12?
Jhonen: What is this anti-Megan thing you have going on right now.
Aaron: We were hiring 12 year olds.
Jhonen: Megan is our friend and we don't like where this is going.
Aaron: Do you know how much money Megan donates to charity every year?
Tim: Was creating the comic like getting the band back together?
Eric: I don't know.
Jhonen: It didn't have that feeling? It just kind of happened very naturally. We still kept in touch. It was kind of effortless. This stuff has just been backed up in our heads for years and years.
Aaron: Wait. What was the question?
Tim: Was creating the comic like getting the band back together?
Aaron: No because we had never been apart.
Jhonen: Yeah, there wasn't a big effort to make it happen. When it was greenlit, we just kind of got back into the flow of it. Which was nice.
Eric: I did a couple of stories that had been left over from the show and the rest of the stuff I just made up. It was just like doing it again. It wasn't like, "Oh my god, I haven't seen all you people in so long. And Jhonen, your cybernetic arms are disturbing now."
Eric: "How did you lose your real arms?"
Jhonen: The weirdness came after a few issues. We realized how badly our skills had atrophied.
Aaron: And that we had to keep doing this and it was going to be embarrassing for us.
Jhonen: Seeing the end result and being like, "Oh god. We suck now."
Eric: We want to apologize for the quality. That's an upcoming issue actually. Just Zim apologizing for 22 pages. It's really going to be from us, but people will know.
Aaron: I mean, Megan did a great job.
Megan: I always do a great job.
Jhonen: I can't say enough positive things about Megan.
Tim: Megan, you were a fan of the original series growing up. What was it like hearing that you'd be working on the comic?
Megan: It was really awesome. When Aaron told me they were interested in asking me to ink the comics, it was just really exciting to hear that it was coming back and I get to work on it. And work at all because at the time I was trying to find work.
Aaron: So if they were making a Fairly Odd Parents comic...
Megan: I'd be like, "Hell yes!"
Aaron: "That's my favorite!"
Megan: "Yes, that's my favorite cartoon! Thank you for the employment."
Tim: What are the benefits of bringing something like Zim to comics? Is it getting to tell more stories?
Jhonen: More stories with a quicker turnaround. And not waiting around for a year for animation to come back. I think you have a greater sense of what you're going to get with a comic. Much more control. There's tradeoff. You don't get money.
Eric: Nothing moves!
Aaron: It moves. If you flip the pages.
Eric: We don't money either.
Jhonen: We don't get paid. You're hurting your hands. That's the tradeoff!
Eric: It's like a labor of love. But it's also like a labor of resentment.
Aaron: It's a labor of love without the love.
Eric: No, we like doing it.
Jhonen: It's a labor.
Eric: Because there's not a network spending hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars every episode, they care a whole lot less.
Jhonen: They're not monitoring.
Eric: That means more freedom. We can do a lot of stuff that Nickelodeon wouldn't let us do. There is a Nickelodeon who looks at it and is like," Ehh, that's fine." "So that scene where Zim stabs Dib in the eyeballs, is that cool?" They're like, "Ehh, that's fine. Are they real scissors." "Yeah, they're real scissors." "Ehh, that's fine." They don't care.
Jhonen: I think we're probably more critical than Nickelodeon in terms of the comics. I saw a conversation between an artist on a recent issue. And Trueheart...
Jhonen: Trueheart was policing the designs.
Eric: And I usually don't do that.
Jhonen: But the artist had drawn Zim and Dib with nipples.
Jhonen: I remember you saying get rid of the nipples.
Megan: They drew Zim with nipples?
Jhonen: My only contribution was like, "I agree with Eric."
Eric: They don't have nipples.
Tim: Are there any stories you couldn't get away with on the show that you can with comics?
Jhonen: We haven't tried.
Eric: We haven't pushed it. We have more flexibility. The "Pants" issue was a story we couldn't get through the network the first time because there had been a Jimmy Neutron "Pants" episode. They were like, "You can't do two pants stories on the same network. Ever." So that was something we could do. But also the weird Virooz arc I tried to do was something we wouldn't have been able to do. Maybe we could have. They didn't care. Just let's do this as a comic book now. We can do a multi-part thing like they do in comics.
Jhonen: You could do that now. Where everything has to be long-form, continuing storyline stuff. But back then it would've been hard to do a multi-part episode.
Eric: They wouldn't know what order they were going to air them in. And they didn't like us.
Jhonen: And they didn't like us. There's that.
Tim: Are all four of you involved in the Invader Zim TV movie?
Eric: Not me...
Megan: Three of us.
Jhonen: Aaron was character designer. Megan was a storyboard artist. I was me.
Eric: He wrote a script.
Jhonen: Eric did do some script consulting.
Eric: I said, "You should cut all this stuff you're trying to cut out." He said okay. He handed me an idea and said, "The network wants me to do something where Dib is helping children out of slums in Calcutta."
Jhonen: He was running a soup kitchen.
Eric: He asked how not to do that. So I said, "Cut these three scenes." He said, "Just the Calcutta soup kitchen scenes?" I said, "No, no, no. Leave those in. But cut the rest of these and it'll work completely."
Aaron: So he didn't use your advice.
Eric: Yeah, no. He didn't use it, but I got paid. More than I get paid for a comic.
Jhonen: So, yes. We were all involved in some way. Even though Eric doesn't feel like it, he was.
Eric: I went there and ate a bagel once.
Jhonen: And that comes across in the final product.
Eric: Every bagel is on the screen.
Invader Zim is published monthly from Oni Press.